Clipp’d Wings

This exhibition was in the Audacious Women Online Gallery in October 2021 and Borrowed Time gallery in November 2021.

I am delighted that the Walking Artists Network have published a blog about this project here.

During the first Covid-19 period of Spring – Summer 2020, I walked and collected feathers. This collection has grown into a mixed media project, Clipp’d Wings.

Feathers collected in June 2020 for Clipp’d Wings

The severe travel limitations imposed by the governments around the world affected many of us from March onwards, and I had received a number of foreign invitations to lead and co-create Shiatsu projects on death and life. Although I had booked a flight to go to Athens, I planned to return home overland: walking and meeting with people in seven countries including Macedonia, Serbia and Hungary. Later, my events in France and Portugal would have involved journeying across Spain. None of these have yet taken place, maybe they never will.

Magpie feathers
Stage 2 of Clipp’d Wings where the feathers were dated and mounted

As someone who has been travelling in Europe extensively during the past four years, this period was really very different. Moreover, I usually live in Scotland, by the sea, where flocks of gulls and oyster catchers wheel and glide over the harbour, crying and peeping as they settle and paddle on the shore. By contrast, the part of Kent where I was living is landlocked, and I was only able to visit the beach once in 5 months.

Taken from a great distance – birds sitting on rooves at Granton Harbour, Edinburgh

Many of the feathers I picked up were from pigeons. The Persians, Romans and Greeks all used pigeons to convey messages. These post pigeons were taken in cages (not planes) to where the sender lived, had a message attached to their legs, and were then released to fly home – something they did naturally.

Harper engraving of homing pigeons (Wikipedia)
Rookery, Kent

I was surrounded by birds in Kent. White doves flew above the garden in great circles, repeatedly returning to their attic homes nearby. When I walked in the early evenings, the air was full of the cacophony of rooks, congregating and preparing for night. Pheasants ran in and out of copses as I explored the public footpaths, and swans sailed along the River Medway, elegantly oblivious to my admiration.

Swan on the River Medway

Through the ages and in divers cultures, feathers have symbolised spirituality, prayers, wisdom and truth. They were, and are, worn as part of ceremonial headdresses. Feathers have been used to flee reality, as transport to other realms, and to weigh against the human heart to see if it was ‘as light as a feather’ and therefore full only of goodness. Yours will join 49 others, gathered together in response to the frustration of lockdown in a flight of collective fancy.

Dovecote, Kent, England

While walking around the lanes of Kent, I came across a number of dovecotes. These avian homes have always inspired me, from the circular Corstorphine dovecote in Edinburgh which gave its name to the tapestry workshop and gallery in Infirmary Street, to the beehive structured Dunure doocot in South Ayrshire. Pigeon and dove families would each have their own wee cubby or pigeon-hole to nest in. Mine is a sort of display case for the feathers and their important messages.

Clipp’d Wings – from the online exhibitions

In Clipp’d Wings, I have been asking people – on Twitter (obviously!) – to complete this message:

If I had wings, I would…

I invited them to shut their eyes and dream of a place they could go if they had wings, could be transported somewhere for a moment. The internet carried their messages to me and I wrote them down on tiny pieces of paper. I folded, rolled and made them into tiny scrolls which now encircle the shaft of a feather, an agent, a symbol of flight.

People I knew and did not, completed the sentence, telling me what they would do if they had wings during those Covid times of restricted movement and lockdowns. I transferred them to one of the waiting feathers where they remain to this day as testimony.

Clipp’d Wings c Tamsin Grainger
When walking the first 4 days of The Pilgrim’s Way in from Winchester towards Canterbury in July 2020, I found more feathers than I could possibly collect, so I retained a sample. This wing was one of many I came across – synchronicity in action!

The photos and concept of Clipp’d Wings is copyright Tamsin Grainger and should not be reproduced in whole or in part without permission. Thank you for your respect in this matter.